COMMENTARY: Tough Decisions Required On Budget

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According to those persons who prepare the budget to operate Cannon County government, including schools, it is necessary to raise the property tax 20 cents in order to fund the proposed budget for the current fiscal year.

Failure to do so will create a monetary shortfall of around $400,000 — unless cuts are made.

When Cannon County, or any government, formulates a yearly budget, there is always a certain amount of guesswork involved.

Those preparing the budget can eliminate much of the guesswork by making projections based upon revenues and expenses from the previous year's budget.

Most of the expenses carry over from year-to-year.  For instance, every budget contains money for employees. Government can't operate and provide services without workers.

There are also aways expenses for office materials and supplies, building and vehicle upkeep and repairs, gasoline, electricty, water, etc.

However, the cost of those expenses can vary from year-to-year. Insurance and gasoline costs can rise and fall. Medical expenses at the Cannon County Jail, for instance, change based upon the number of inmates who require care.

There are also unforeseen expenses, such as a patrol car or ambulance breaking down, or a heating and air unit at a school becoming unworkable.

Unknowns exist too when it comes to revenue projections. Property and sales tax collections can rise and fall significantly depending on the overall economy of the country.

Government will always tax us. We are not going to wake up one day and find that we are no longer going to be taxed for government services. Government will always say it needs more money to serve us. Government will always say people will suffer if we don't give it more money.

Some people will contend their is pork in government. No doubt there is. There is certainly more in a government, such as the federal goverment, which seemingly has a never-ending limit on the amount of money it can spend. Cannon County does not fall in that category.

For national politians, the more they can spend, the better. It helps them get reelected. It doesn't always do much for our country. For local politicians, the best course of action usually is to spend as little money as they can, and get the most  bang for the bucks as is possible.

County govenments can't afford a lot of pork in their budgets. That's not to say they don't have a little fat, but that's both desireable and, in some cases, required.

In a county as small as Cannon, it is relatively easy to see where, and to whom, tax money goes. It goes to fund the offices and people who work in the Cannon County Courthouse, the Election Office, the Sheriff's Department, in the school's Central Office, at its seven schools, etc.

State law mandates that all of those services be provided. It does not mandate the number of people required to provide them.

State law does not mandate the provision of ambulance, fire, trash disposal, senior citizen or library services, but many counties find it desireable to do so.

The commission's Budget Committee cut close to $500 from budget requests during the process of formulating the proposed budget. If the commission decides that more spending cuts are in order to eliminate the need for an additional $400,000 at this time, it seems pretty obvious at this point where they will have to start — in the offices of county government. That's already happening in the school system.

Cannon County has been able to balance its budget the last few years by dipping into its savings, or reserve fund. It's about to run dry. Some tough decisions will have to be made in the next month of so with respect to the budget, and it is up to the people of Cannon County, and their elected officials, to make them.
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Members Opinions:
July 24, 2011 at 3:51pm
Why not look at counties with comparable population an see if we are in line with employees in each county dept.If not find out why.
July 24, 2011 at 6:39pm
Sounds like a project the new Audit Committee should take up. The five countues directly below Cannon in population are Decatur, Lewis, Bledsoe, Stewart and Grundy. The five directly above are Sequatchie, Crockett, Benton, Polk and Wayne.

Now, if some of those counties have more employees in a particular county department, does that mean we should match them?
July 24, 2011 at 6:59pm
I guess if they had more the next question would be,Do they have a neopatiosm law.
July 24, 2011 at 7:33pm
As was said several years ago "One Thin Dime"! This year it will be Two Thin Dimes!! Commissioners do the right thing! You are charged to do what is best for Cannon County not what it takes to get re-elected!
July 24, 2011 at 9:45pm
As one commissioner said"We can't run the county like a business." My question is "Why NOT?" Companies that face short falls in revenue do lay off, scale back and do whatever it takes to just stay in business. Just as commissioner Bush suggested that they do. We all are having lean times right now and just as the federal gov't is finding out, you cannot spend your way out of it. Does anyone not listen to Dave Ramsey!!!
July 25, 2011 at 4:31am
The commissioner who said that also provided the reason. Businesses can refuse service if someone does not have the means to pay for it. There are certain services government must provide regardless of one's ability to pay.
July 25, 2011 at 6:17am
Another comment made during the meeting is worth noting. Someone stated they didn't have any kids in the school system and didn't care about education, implying that they shouldn't have to pay taxes to support education. Providing education is not an option for a county government. It is mandated to do so. Parents with children in the system can't by themselves afford the service. It must be a shared sacrifice by all taxpayers of the community.
July 25, 2011 at 8:06am
Why is property taxes always the first option?
I'm a homeowner with no kids in school. I don't mind supporting our schools and kids' education; but, I don't understand why the homeowners are always the ones to pay. Are there not other options that would cover more people-therfore, bring in more money?
July 25, 2011 at 8:30am
The easiest answer to that question is because it is easier to get 10 commissioners to agree to raise the property tax than it is to get 8,000 voters to approve a referendum to increase the sales tax.
July 25, 2011 at 9:13am
How about the idea of combining schools and saving that money? Why is that not on the table or at least being discussed as an option?

It would save money, reduce the need for a 20 cent tax increase, keep us from doubling up on the teachers and making them teach multiple classes and make better sense in the long run.

I am not priviliged to the financials of each school and was told that there was no budget for each individual school, but common sense should tell us combining the schools is the best option we have to solve some of this problem.
July 25, 2011 at 1:19pm
I've been living in Cannon Co. all my life and I hadn't ever seen Property taxes fall they are always on the rise and as far as the jail how many State inmates are being housed there why hadn't they been sent to the State pen and it wouldn't cost as much to operate the jail,I still beleive we need and Audit performed and see were all the property and wheel tax money is going....
July 25, 2011 at 1:50pm
Hey Corey the commission would like for the Board of Education to combine the schools that is maybe why it is not a option or on the table. I do not think that the BOE wants to do that.
July 25, 2011 at 3:29pm
You are probably right redmolly, I just wish everyone would see the light and understand the population of Cannon County and the amount of revenue we have coming in will no longer support six grammar schools.

Especially when at least three of them could be combined over time to save millions of dollars.

Oh well, it will come soon enough. When we go bankrupt because we have held on to sentiment for the last 50 years we will understand the need then.
July 25, 2011 at 3:40pm
It seems to me that if the wheel tax was raised, everyone would share is a piece of this pie. Property owners are the first ones the county looks at, everytime they need noney. I'm not priveliged to know what our county pays. There is the option of them taking a pay cut. I worked for a major corporation for many years. When things got tight we took pay cuts and did not recieve bonues. We even gave back some of the benefits to help. Could that be an option here? Are these folks really concerned about the well being of our county of are some just wanting to collect their paychecks?
July 25, 2011 at 4:09pm
ladyreader I am glad to see you are looking for ideas and solutions.

I would say that I don't think the county employees would be an option to help this situation for a couple of reasons.

#1 They haven't had a raise in almost four years, so there isn't much to give back.

#2 If you knew how bad their benefits were to begin with (i.e. insurance for example) you really wouldn't want it back anyway.

#3 There aren't enough of them to offset what is needed unless you eliminate all of the positions completly. Then you lose service almost entirely because most of the elected officials and departments only have two employees to begin with. If you eliminate one then who is left to run the office when the elected official is off work?

Lastly, the wheel tax is already set at $75 of which the county receives $50 to pay for the new grammar school (WGS). How much more can we stand?

Property taxes are always looked at first because there is more people who own land than there are people who drive cars.

However, I appreciate your thoughts and ideas!
July 25, 2011 at 6:20pm
No budget or financial data for individual schools hard to believe!Would the open records laws force the BOE to at least provide records of utility payments (gas,elect.,water)for each school? If the Cannon co. taxpayers were aware of the true cost of keeping the doors open at two to three inefficient grammar schools in the county I feel public outcry would win out sooner than later! Redmolly; the bus already comes over the hill twice a day with just a handful of highschool students!
July 25, 2011 at 9:48pm
July 25, 2011 at 9:57pm
Maybe it is time that we had a finance officer for the county.Some one with out his on agenda.One person to answer to the taxpayers.Also I think we should look into getting out of the trash business or a least making it pay its on way.If we have to cut the hours so be 4 days a week 10 hours a day would save a lot.Also work with the sheriff to get the prisoners back that way we should be able to operate the dump with one employee an one part timer.Also all elected officals should look a there office an decide how they could save money,The money tree has quit growing an the taxpayers have had enough.It is time quit looking after friends an family an look after the people that put you in office.
July 25, 2011 at 11:23pm
Corey, You have hit the nail on the head with some of your comments, but the commissioners cannot force the BOE to combine schools, that has to be their decision. But, if our commissioners had the backbone to cut their budget by 400,000 they would have no option. Also, one commissioner said that he was advised to raise the property by 5cents every year and we would have plenty of money. That's easy to say if you have never worked in a factory that undervalues it's employees! What are harvest festivals for anyway??? Or cookie dough???? Or candy bars???
July 26, 2011 at 6:13am
ftenpenny, the county has a finance officer. In fact, there are at least 17. 10 county commissioners. 5 school board members. 2 citizen representatives on the budget committee. 15 of them are directly answerable to the taxpayers. Hiring yet another person is not going to reduce expenditures any more than what those 17 people can do.

Again, it is not difficult to read the budgets for the county and schools and ascertain where the money is going. One can easily visit the courthouse, the sheriff's department, the schools, the election office, the convenience center, the senior center, the Health Dept., the REACH building, the UT-Extension Office, the Highway Department, the ambulance service for a first-hand view.

A hired finance director would not answer to the taxpayers. Only elected officials answer to taxpayers.
July 26, 2011 at 7:43pm
I AGREE WITH JUNEBUG18!! As a matter of fact, that's just what I did in the last election!! Voted against everyone already in office. I looked at it the same way she does, we need new people with new ideas and new opinions!
July 27, 2011 at 12:01am
Here is an idea. Why not create a system of reward for departments who come in under their budget instead of punishing them by taking away what they did not spend for the year. By doing so it could end up putting money back for a rainy day instead of come the end of the fiscal year they are all rushing to spend all their budget. It could also mean that waste would go down.
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